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Breastfed babies more naturally 'challenging'


Breastfed babies cry more, laugh less, and generally have “more challenging temperaments” than formula-fed infants, a study has found.

But such behaviour is normal, and mothers should learn to cope with it rather than reach for the bottle, according to researchers.

Infant irritability was said to be a natural part of the “dynamic communication” between mothers and babies.

Bottle-feeding was akin to “comfort eating” - producing quieter and apparently more content babies who may be over-nourished and putting on weight too rapidly.

The study rated the temperament of 316 babies at age three months using a 191-item behaviour questionnaire completed by their mothers.

Scores differed between babies that were exclusively breast-fed, bottle-fed or mixed-fed.

In three broad areas, breast and mixed-fed babies were rated as being more difficult to deal with than bottle-fed babies.

The study authors wrote in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE: “In particular, compared to formula-fed infants, breastfed infants were reported to show greater distress, less smiling, laughing and vocalisation, to be slower to calm down following distress or excitement, and more difficult to soothe by care givers.”

The findings may help explain why so many mothers give up on breastfeeding after a short time, despite the strong health message that “breast is best” for growing infants.

Department of Health guidelines say mothers should exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months after birth.

Janine Stockdale, research fellow at the Royal College of Midwives, said the study was small and more research was needed in the area before firm conclusions shuold be drawn. 

She said: “It cannot be presumed that physical signalling by the baby automatically means it is hungry; other evidence suggests that babies engage in sucking behaviour called non-nutritive sucking. As breastfeeding mothers are often advised not to use a soother while their baby is learning to breastfeed, this means there is a need to look at babies’ behaviours, taking into consideration whether or not a soother was introduced.

“Factoring this type of information into the research would enable us to understand more about the suggested differences between the behaviours of breastfed and bottle fed babies.”

She added: “The evidence needs to be seen in a greater context before we start to draw conclusions on this research and we should continue to do all we can to promote and increase the rates of breastfeeding.” 





Readers' comments (2)

  • Little One

    Does this account for why I still have such a sunny disposition!? Bottle fed from day one, as were my brothers and we are all fine and dandy. I appreciate that breast is best but I feel that it is forced upon mothers who are made to feel guilty about bottle feeding. This was certainly the experience I had when working on a maternity unit for a week.

    They were not allowed to have bottles and formula on display in the hospital and were not allowed to give them to the ladies without them specifically asking. Every time they asked they were told again and again that breast was best and did they really want the bottle?

    When my Mother had my brothers she was made to feel awful about not breastfeeding twins but she was a tiny 5ft 2, size 8 and had already had one stubborn, fairly stupid baby (me) who had been unable to breasteed because I couldn't latch on. She did not want to be awake all day every day, doing nothing but attempt to feed two babies at the same time so didn't try but she was shouted at by her midwife!

    I think that promoting something which is healthy is brilliant, smoking cessation, safe alcohol limits, regular exercise, breastfeeding etc. but I do not think that new mothers should be made to feel like they have failed before they even leave the hospital.

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  • George Kuchanny

    Same here little one, dazzingly sunny me. My mum buggerd off when I was 2 weeks old apparently, so I never had a mum.

    I am so lovely that people say "Oh yes, George, yup, he's no trouble at all despite looking a bit scary".

    I am one of twins, we took turns in yelling and throwing our toys out of the pram in an attempt to keep mum up 24/7 according to dad. Ha! I think not daddy! I bet it was him farting in bed that made mum leg it, not our 24/7 racket.

    So apart from my 'rugged' looks (read what you will into that) no damage done by being bottle fed.

    I can assure everyone that I am not overweight or even chubby (perfect BMI) probably the only down side to chugging down gallons of formula at an early age I would think.

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